Jack Wardynski’s review published on Letterboxd:
This is the greatest film of the past ten years.
I don’t know if I’m able to actually put into words what this movie means to me. I’ve always been a huge Star Wars fan. Like most kids in America (and throughout the world probably), I grew up watching Star Wars. I can’t really recall a time in my life when I didn’t know who Han Solo is or what a lightsaber does. When The Force Awakens came out, I was extremely pleased with it. I thought it was a great re-introduction to this franchise that had been dormant and largely dead for a decade at that time. I saw Rogue One the next year and generally enjoyed it, though it certainly has its problems. Going into this one the following year, I was honestly a bit skeptical. I was worried that they were just going to imitate Empire and in effect make an entertaining yet otherwise boring movie. I came out of the theater opening night after seeing the film and said to myself, “Wow, that was better than I thought it would be. That’s probably my third or fourth favorite Star Wars movie.” And then I saw it again. And again. And then it came out on Blu-Ray and I watched it again. And I watched the special features. And then I watched it again. And here I am now, writing this review after seeing the film for the sixth time. Yet ever since I saw this movie nearly a year and a half ago, I do not think that it has really ever left my mind. It’s just this beautiful piece of art that I cannot stop thinking about.
For one, I think this is easily the most beautiful Star Wars movie to date and one of the most gorgeous studio films of this century. The movie has a very clear, distinctive look. When you think of this film, you think of red. The throne room, Snoke’s guards, Kylo’s lightsaber, the dirt on Crait. This gives the film a unique look, which is something most blockbuster films do not seem to concern themselves with right now. The movie is also filled with countless iconic shots and stunning sequences. I cannot remember most of the action scenes from Captain Marvel, a movie I just saw a week ago. In contrast, The Last Jedi has so many action beats that have stuck with me for over a year: Holdo’s suicide lightspeed jump, Finn cracking Phasma’s helmet, Paige catching the detonator as it’s falling, the moment when the Falcon shows up on Crait, and basically the entirety of the throne room fight and the Luke-Kylo duel. It’s clear that this movie’s visual style is Johnson’s from beginning to end.
If you want to break it down, the film really has three narrative arcs (Rey on Ach-To, Finn on Canto Bight with Rose, and Poe on the Resistance crusier) that all come together for the Battle of Crait. Rey’s journey is probably my favorite, though I think all are done masterfully. The lesson for Rey to learn is that her legacy is not defined by where she is from, but rather what she chooses to do now. By giving her an anonymous backstory and having her parents be nobody of import, the film gives us no preconceived notions of who she should become. All of her triumphs are because of her own strength and character, not because she comes from a strong bloodline.
Finn’s arc is probably the most maligned, but I think it is key to his character. His whole journey in this film is to figure out what it means to actually be a rebel and if he is willing to choose that life. DJ and Rose act like the devil and the angel on his shoulder. It is only after DJ chooses a side and betrays them that Finn sees the error with his mentality, and he chooses from then on to be, not just a “good guy”, but a rebel. This is so clearly illustrated when Phasma calls him scum and he responds with “Rebel scum.”
Poe’s storyline is a critique of the clieched character archetype of the “hot shot”, “ride or die” protagonist. Typically these kinds of characters are portrayed as scoundrels with hearts of gold that always come through for you in the end. In this film, though, Poe is justifiably demoted and punished when he makes reckless decisions. He gets countless Resistance fighters killed for a victory that ends up being pointless. He sends Finn and Rose on a mission with almost no chance of success and the mission ends up failing. He orchestrated a mutiny that accomplishes nothing and ends up being shot by his superior. By the end of the film he recognizes his mistakes and chooses to look for an escape route rather than help Luke fight Kylo.
I think one of the biggest misconceptions about this film is that its message is that you should “let the past die”, and I cannot really blame people for thinking that. It was the biggest line in the trailer after all. I feel like when people complain about this movie, they say that it disrespects the classic characters, especially Luke, because it has no reverence for them. However, I do not think that this is what the movie is saying. We have to keep in mind that the “let the past die” is spoken by Kylo Ren, the psuedo-villian of the film. He says it when he is trying to convince Rey to abandon Luke and join him instead. Knowing this, I think it’s clear that this is not the message that Rian Johnson was trying to get across. Instead, I believe that he is instead claiming that there comes a time when the torch of hope must be passed to a new generation, and this movie shows that handoff. Luke initially does not want to help Rey because he lost hope after Ben’s turn to the dark. Later on, though, Yoda appears to him and says “We are what they grow beyond.” I think this line is very telling because it mirrors Yoda’s progression as a character. During the Clone Wars he was a powerful Jedi Master, and if there was a situation that needed handling he would handle it. However, in Empire, Yoda recognizes that Luke must become the hero, so he chooses to train him rather than fight himself. The Last Jedi is about Luke learning that lesson. Luke sacrifices himself to keep the newer and younger spark of hope alive in Rey. It is very similar to when Ben died to protect Luke in A New Hope. He knew his time had passed, and it was time for the next generation of heroes to rise. So, The Last Jedi is not saying that we should kill the past, but rather that there comes a time when the burden of the future can no longer be placed on a generation’s shoulders, and the baton must be passed.
If you’ve made it all the way to this part of the review, I thank you but also apologize for making you read my rambling about this movie that I love so deeply. I have so many other thoughts beyond the ones stated above, I just don’t want this to turn into a full length book. I’m sure I will write about them more when I inevitably watch this movie again in probably four or five months.
TL;DR: This movie is a masterpiece and you should be watching it right now